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A Significant Milestone

Next week marks a significant milestone — the beginning of Volume 150 of the Marion County Record — a century and a half of service.

So, yes, the Ol’ Thing really is an old thing.

Since our first issue, 13 stars have been added to the U.S. flag. We’re older than Colorado, North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii.

We don’t often write about U.S. presidents. Particularly in recent years, we try to avoid even thinking about them whenever possible. Still, this editorial page has pointed with pride or viewed with alarm the policies of 27 different presidents, dating back to Ulysses S. Grant.

Oddly enough, we’re not only the second oldest business in Marion and the first newspaper published in Marion County. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, we’re also the first newspaper ever published in Dickinson County.

Originally called the Western News, the Record began in the Dickinson County town of Detroit, which at the time was a serious candidate to become county seat.

Both Marion and Abilene were on the bleeding edge of the frontier. To the west and south were nothing but cavalry forts and encampments of indigenous Native Americans.

Marion had its share of tumult during that period, including an infamous raid by native warriors. But it was not the lawless Wild West town that Abilene was — a fact that, in the view of original publisher A.W. Robinson, disqualified it from being Dickinson’s county seat.

Robinson, the first newspaper man in that county, wasn’t successful, however. After Abilene won an election over Detroit to become county seat, he accepted an offer from Marion business people to relocate here, which already had been named our county seat. He thus became publisher of the first newspaper in not one but two counties.

A century and a half later, there’s some dispute over when this actually happened. Publisher E.W. Hoch, who bought the paper in 1874, wrote at the time that Robinson had come to Marion and published his first issue here on Sept. 19, 1869. That’s the date we use in numbering our volumes. But there is some evidence that Hoch may have been a year off, and that the paper’s actual birth date was Jan. 20, 1870, in Dickinson County, with the first Marion County issue being published Sept. 19, 1870.

We won’t fault a handset-type typo by the youthful Hoch, who would be 169 years old today. He was barely in his 20s when he started a family tradition that continued for 124 years and was passed along to the Meyer family, which has helped carry the torch for the past 70 years.

Over the years, the paper you’re holding in your hands or viewing on your screen has faced numerous Johnny-come-lately challengers.

In Marion alone, competing papers have included the Advance, Advocate, Anzeiger, Banner, Baptist, Democrat, Enquirer, Galaxy, Gleaner, Globe, Headlight, Independent, Journal, Register, Register, Review, Rural Kansan, Scimitar, Telegraph, Times, and Tribune, all now largely forgotten.

Even our original Dickinson County hometown, now an unincorporated wide spot in the road, at one time had another paper, called the Free Press, published for just four months.

Our paper, our community, its history, and its future have been a multigenerational obsession.

Spend time exploring our archives, as multiple staff members do for several hours each week to painstakingly research our Memories photos, and you quickly will learn that the themes we hear today — economic development, governmental rancor, and encouragement of local leadership — have echoed throughout time.

In the next 150 years, we hope to continue to hold up a mirror to each week’s developments so others in the community can see the truth — whether it’s something they like and can take pride in or it’s something of concern that they need to address to make our community stronger.

That’s what we do, and what we have done for close to a century and a half. It’s our obligation to the place we call home. And it’s an obligation we willingly accept. A community without a mirror of truth very quickly finds itself like Dickinson County’s tiny Detroit.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 20, 2018

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